It's fun to personalize your travel experience

Posted: Friday, April 20, 2007

My son, Elton, has recently made frequent trips back and forth to Seattle on business. He has introduced me to a travel option that I have never used in almost 70 years.

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I've taken the steamship to Seattle in the 1940s with stops at Ketchikan, Prince Rupert and Victoria with arrival at the downtown Seattle city docks.

In the age of the jet airliner after arriving at Seattle there are available rental cars, Greyhound bus service and taxicabs. Rental cars usually cost $30 to $70 a day and for a ride into the city Greyhound is $15 to $20 and taxis are $35 or more.

But at the end of the outdoor walkway in front of the airport there is a municipal bus service that only costs $1.50 and you get a return ticket for free if you come back on the same day.

The fastest bus using the freeway is 194 which arrives about every 30 minutes.

It was filled with people who spoke many different languages, but mostly Chinese. Everyone on the bus seemed extremely courteous. When a person exited he or she wished the driver well.

"Thank you."

"Have a good one."

"Have a good day."

We got off on Fourth Avenue and walked to our appointment, then four or five hours later caught the same bus 194 two blocks lower on Second Avenue for the return trip to the airport for a total expenditure of $3 for both riders.

What a bargain that was and a very interesting excursion.

It's fun to personalize the experience of travel. When air service began in the 1950s and into the 1960s, everyone on the plane seemed to know everyone else. Today, there are only a few familiar faces, and in the sea of people at the Juneau airport, it is as if you are on a concourse at New York City.

Juneau is such a different place from 50 years ago. Then the population was only about 10,000 concentrated in downtown Juneau and Douglas. It was common to make eye contact and to say hello to anyone you passed on the street whether stranger or friend. An acquaintance who left in the 1960s and returned 20 years later said the biggest difference he noticed was that nobody said hello on the streets any longer.

It's as if living on a different planet, passing impersonally on the way to work or play.

• Lifelong Alaskan Elton Engstrom is a retired fish-buyer, lawyer and legislator (1964-70) who lives in Juneau.

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